ORLANDO, Fla. — Think he’s running in 2024?
Judging from his rock-star arrival at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) in Orlando on Thursday — and the repeated standing ovations he got throughout his stemwinder of a speech — the answer sure looks like a big yes.
Ron DeSantis, the popular Republican governor of Florida, threw the conservative crowd pounds of red meat, hitting government overreach on COVID-19, soaring crime, “Bidenflation,” big tech censorship, transgender athletes and election integrity.
But most of all, he hit the left wing of the Democratic Party, which he said wants to stifle the voices of conservatives.
“Woke is the new religion of the left,” DeSantis said, mirroring this year’s CPAC slogan, “Awoke, Not Woke.” He also called the woke movement a “form of Marxism.”
“Freedom has prevailed in the Sunshine State,” he said to cheers.
While many stood through his 20-minute speech, others jumped to their feet when he delivered lines like, “criminals will see the inside of a jail cell,” labeled the Biden White House “the Brandon administration” and declared “Florida has defeated Fauciism,” a reference to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has led the effort to lock down America and mandate masks in schools.
He also got a standing ovation when he said his state wouldn’t become a “Faucian Dystopia.”
DeSantis drew laughter and applause when he said that if Biden dumps illegal aliens from the southern border in his state, “I’m rerouting them to Delaware, Biden’s home state. He added that he would, for good measure, send some to Washington, D.C., and Hollywood. The lines drew the biggest cheer of the day.
The governor, who is considered a frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, also prompted cheers when he blasted the “legacy media,” which he said is “not in the business of telling the truth.” He also blasted Big Tech, saying it is “now the No. 1 institution of censorship.”
In his opening, after flinging some baseball caps into the crowd, he mocked Democratic politicians who mandate masks in their blue states — then escape to Florida, where they enjoy more freedom.
He shredded liberal lawmakers who have backed “defund the police” movements and shied away from cracking down on soaring crime.
“We stand up against the weak-on-crime policies that are ravaging cities across the country,” DeSantis said.
For his home state, he said “this is not going to be like Portland. … In Florida, you are not getting a slap on the wrist, you are getting the inside of a jail cell.”
On Critical Race Theory (CRT), the governor said, “Because we will not spend taxpayer money to teach our kids to hate America or to hate each other, we have banned CRT in K through 12 education.”
On Biden, DeSantis said, “He’s had the worst first year of any president since the 1800s.”
In conclusion, he urged CPAC attendees to “make 2022 the year America fought back. … There is no substitute for courage.”
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent, and ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2015. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.